Viacom Cements CEO Role for Bob Bakish

Viacom Inc. on Monday named Bob Bakish its chief executive, removing the word "acting" from his title the same day the media company's pursuit of a potential merger with corporate sibling CBS Corp. was called off.

Sumner Redstone's National Amusements Inc. sent a letter to the boards of both Viacom and CBS, which it controls through a roughly 80% voting stake in each, telling them to abandon its previous request to explore a merger.

Chief among the reasons that National Amusements cited was the strength of Mr. Bakish's strategic plan for Viacom as a stand-alone entity.

"I am very excited by the strategy Viacom is pursuing under Bob's leadership, as well as the relentless hard work and passion he has demonstrated not only in his fast start at the helm but in his many years at the company," Shari Redstone, Mr. Redstone's daughter and the vice chairman of Viacom's board, said in a statement on Monday.

Mr. Bakish, a nearly two-decade veteran of Viacom, was named acting CEO on Oct. 31.

"In Bob's short time as Acting President and CEO he has impressed the Board of Directors with the decisive steps he has taken," said Viacom Chairman Tom May.

Mr. Bakish has promised to restore Viacom's storied creative culture, which critics say has languished in recent years; chart a bold strategy for the U.S. cable-networks business; and bring new discipline and imagination to the Paramount movie studio.

Mr. Bakish joined Viacom in 1997 and has held a variety of leadership positions over the years. Before his stint as acting CEO, he was head of Viacom International Media Networks, where he was responsible for rolling out brands like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon in international markets. Among his notable achievements were the creation of a joint venture in India, Viacom18, which launched one of the most-watched general entertainment channels in the country, and acquisitions of the U.K.'s Channel 5 and Argentina's Telefe.

Mr. Bakish also was known as a proponent of digital experimentation, testing out streaming and on-demand services that hadn't yet been tried in the U.S.

Ms. Redstone has emerged as a powerful figure in the company in the wake of a power struggle that resulted in the ouster of former Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and the overhaul of Viacom's board earlier this year.

Write to Keach Hagey at